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The North Side’s North Star


For those who don’t know, The North Star is highly symbolic in spirituality, astrology and life in general. The North Star is the anchor for the northern sky. It’s a sky marker that helps those who follow it determine direction. So symbolically, it’s a beacon of inspiration and hope to many individuals and in every culture, it means different things to people. But the general theme that should be taken away from here is that it’s a beacon of hope to people. Pardon the rambling, but the major take away from this is that Namenj has positioned himself as his north star.

Ali Jubril Namanjo, popularly known as Namenj, is a Nigerian Afro pop and Afro Fusion singer and songwriter. Namenj was born in South West Nigeria, Ibadan, Oyo State.  Throughout our conversation, Namenj tells me that he’s accumulating every step he makes toward securing his future. While he is a dreamer and a lover boy, his aims and desires are clearly aligned.

After graduating from college, Namenj began recording cover songs and immediately became well-known in the Arewa music community. His rendition of Adekunle Gold’s “Orente” was what eventually catapulted him to mainstream fame, as well as giving him the courage to create and release his own songs professionally. His nearly ten-year adventure is what has led him to this point. And, as fate would have it, opportunity came knocking on his door.

It was through the advice of a friend that he submitted one of his singles to the Empawa Africa program. Namenj took a chance and applied for the EMPAWA AFRICA incubator program, and as a result of his potential, he was picked as one of the 30 participants by Mr. Eazi in 2020. His music is great and has a significant influence on the listener, and he is without a doubt one of the most fascinating performers on the North Side thus far.

In our conversation, we speak about his early musical influences, his background, his journey to Empawa and how all these things have come together to impact his life and career.

Can we start off with what inspired you to make music?

I’m not sure what exactly drew me to music in the first place. I can say that it all began with my passion for the music I listened to as a child. It was a lot of pleasure for me to sing along to my favorite tunes. I’d sing the songs so passionately and word for word that you’d think I composed them myself. Later on, I began to dabble with songwriting. I met people along the way who inspired and encouraged me to keep going.

So, who did you listen to as a kid growing up that made you think that “I can actually do this music thing?”

I grew up listening to songs from Westlife, Celine Dion, and Dan Maraya Jos from Northern Nigeria as a child and that’s what sparked my interest in music. They were, without a doubt, the foundation for my desire to pursue a career in music.

What type of music do you make?

I’d characterize my music as a hybrid of Afro Fusion and Urban Hausa. My songs are mostly inspired by personal experiences and views.


I think that’s cool because we don’t see a lot of people doing that these days. But before we continue, Can we talk about how you joined Empawa?

Oh of course. I don’t think that I can talk about my journey honestly without including them. What had happened was, my friend mentioned the Empawa 30 competition to me and said I could enroll and it was pretty simple too. All I had to do was upload a video with the hash tag and get people to engage with it. And I did that, by the next day, I saw that a lot of people were interacting with it and I was part of the finalists for the selection stage. I guess we can say the rest is history because here I am now.

Wow that’s amazing! Since joining the team, how has your creative process been?

I’ve learnt a whole lot. From song writing to having access to better producers and also fine-tuning my sound, ultimately, my career has been elevated just by joining the team.

Can we talk about your freshly released project?

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Gaaskia, that’s what all the work I’ve been putting in has been leading to. The title of my project is “North Star”. I feel like it doesn’t only refer to my rising profile, it also draws great meaning in relation to the galaxy and the stars. It is the anchor of the northern sky. I want to be an inspiration and a beacon of hope from the North side.

So let’s talk about your current bangers “Dama” and “Dabanne”. How would you say the reception of fans to your new music has helped you?

Whoa! Let me tell you, I went from making covers, to writing music with the aim of having people relate to the music I put out on a basic level and I think that so far, with the numbers the songs are doing, it’s safe to say that a lot of people really vibe to it. I’ve performed at so many weddings and the reaction once I start the song let’s me know that I’m on the right path.

That must be very encouraging for you! What can those who haven’t yet listened expect from your new project?

The project is scheduled to dropped yesterday, 10th of November and I’m really just looking forward to sharing the project with all my fans and the world. I know that I’m on the edge of something great!

It was a full pleasure speaking to you about this project and your journey so far. Do you have anything you’d like to share with your fans?

Yes I do. Keep streaming and sharing my music. You make me have a consistent passion for my craft and I’m only looking forward to growing with you in this journey.


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